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Precious Metals: ETFs vs Futures

By:

Head Content Strategist

Gold is hanging around its most expensive prices since futures on the commodity started trading almost half a century ago in 1974. While the price levels have increased, the action around gold has not. Volatility has only risen slightly in gold products, and it is in fact still below its historical average. As gold feels out new highs in a more calculated manner, its metallic companion silver has almost doubled in volatility.

As gold feels out new highs in a more calculated manner, its metallic companion silver has almost doubled in volatility.

Source: dxFeed Index Services (https://indexit.dxfeed.com)

Whether it’s by price extremes or large moves, the curiosity of many stock traders is piqued. But those familiar with stocks may have a hard time finding the right precious metal product to speculate on since the choices vary widely in exposure, size, and look.

Metals or Mining Stocks?

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that package stocks in the mining business might be the easiest first venture into metals, but ETFs such as XME and GDX can diverge greatly from the commodity itself. Their correlation to the equity market can push them one way as metals pull them the other creating significant long-term deviations.

GDX,GOLD,XME

Source: dxFeed Index Services (https://indexit.dxfeed.com)

Some ETFs that track commodities more closely, like GLD and SLV, can be heavy on capital usage. For example, the shares needed to see daily movement in an SLV position greater than $50 would cost between $1,000 and $2,000. These expensive ETFs make large returns on capital difficult to attain.

Capital Efficiency at What Cost?

Futures contracts on gold and silver can offer large fluctuations for smaller capital requirements than stocks and ETFs, but traditional metal futures such as /GC and /SI can be too large for the everyday investor. Both markets have seen daily moves exceeding $2,000 just in the last week, and silver futures have made multi-thousand dollar moves a regular event. New futures products like Small Precious Metals (/SPRE) present smaller investors the capital efficiency of futures at a more manageable rate than traditional products. The product moves close to $100 on the average day, and its initial margin is usually around a few hundred dollars. Also, it combines gold and silver into the same product, so you don’t have to decide on which precious metal to trade.

small precious metals

Source: dxFeed Index Services (https://indexit.dxfeed.com)

Disclosure: Interactive Brokers

Information posted on IBKR Traders’ Insight that is provided by third-parties and not by Interactive Brokers does NOT constitute a recommendation by Interactive Brokers that you should contract for the services of that third party. Third-party participants who contribute to IBKR Traders’ Insight are independent of Interactive Brokers and Interactive Brokers does not make any representations or warranties concerning the services offered, their past or future performance, or the accuracy of the information provided by the third party. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

This material is from The Small Exchange and is being posted with permission from The Small Exchange. The views expressed in this material are solely those of the author and/or The Small Exchange and IBKR is not endorsing or recommending any investment or trading discussed in the material. This material is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security. To the extent that this material discusses general market activity, industry or sector trends or other broad based economic or political conditions, it should not be construed as research or investment advice. To the extent that it includes references to specific securities, commodities, currencies, or other instruments, those references do not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell or hold such security. This material does not and is not intended to take into account the particular financial conditions, investment objectives or requirements of individual customers. Before acting on this material, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, as necessary, seek professional advice.

Disclosure: Forex

There is a substantial risk of loss in foreign exchange trading. The settlement date of foreign exchange trades can vary due to time zone differences and bank holidays. When trading across foreign exchange markets, this may necessitate borrowing funds to settle foreign exchange trades. The interest rate on borrowed funds must be considered when computing the cost of trades across multiple markets.

Disclosure: Futures Trading

Futures are not suitable for all investors. The amount you may lose may be greater than your initial investment. Before trading futures, please read the CFTC Risk Disclosure. A copy and additional information are available at ibkr.com.

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